Scottish Labour is committed to a victims-orientated approach to criminal justice and is looking at all its policies to ensure they fit that bill, the party’s new Scottish Justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald told a Victim Support Scotland meeting at the party’s Scottish Conference.
“We are about to start a new policy approach and at the very heart of that will be victims,” Mr Macdonald told the Fringe event at the Caird Hall, Dundee on Saturday, March 3.
“And an important part of that approach will be working with Victim Support Scotland,” the MSP added.
Mr Macdonald said that all policies were being reviewed to see how closely they related to victims and witnesses of crime and it was too often the case that the system focussed only on people committing crimes and so easily forgot victims and witnesses.
Things, were moving forward, however, and the new EU Directive on rights for victims was an important step, as was the forthcoming Victims Rights Bill at Holyrood which Labour would back.
“This is a once in a Parliament opportunity and we will take it,” said Mr Macdonald.
He was keen to look at a number of areas of the criminal justice that could be improved including better referrals and ensuring access to services. The party was also committed to looking at the issue of court facilities.
“It’s clear that too often victims and witnesses find themselves in the same room as an accused. That just shouldn’t happen,” Mr Macdonald said.
Scottish Labour was determined to promote change, and “the changes we want are in the interest of victims, witnesses and of wider society,” the MSP added.
The meeting, which was chaired by Victim Support Scotland Vice chair Alan Davie, heard from VSS Deputy Chief Executive Jim Andrews who outlined the opportunity presented by the EU Directive on victims’ rights.
Mr Andrews said there was a great chance to make the justice system better and thereby extend confidence in it and VSS was ready to do everything it could to promote that process.
Thanking Mr Macdonald and the guests for attending the meeting Mr Davie said VSS was now in its 27th successful year and because of that success was now recognised as a world leader in helping victims.